Mayor Michael Bloomberg .
(photo credit: Associated Press)
When was the last time leading Arabs or Muslims came to the defense of Jews? I
say that because a phenomenal thing happened in America last week. American Jews
were divided, but still led the national debate on whether or not a mosque
should be allowed within blocks of “Ground Zero,” the spot where the Twin Towers
collapsed under a terrorist assault on September 11, 2001.
Anti-Defamation League flip-flopped on the issue, supporting it on principle and
then later opposing it on emotional grounds, it did so with attempted
The ADL noted the intense emotions aroused and said that
Muslims seeking to build the mosque should recognize the feelings of those who
lost family, relatives and friends in the al-Qaida terrorist attack.
the ADL was just one of the American Jewish voices addressing the controversy;
the leading Jewish defenders were not only passionate in their defense but
stubborn about the principle involved.
Among those voices was one of the
country’s leading Jewish politicians, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose
eyes welled up with emotion while he declared that Muslims have every right to
build a mosque, just as Christians and Jews could build a church or synagogue
Bloomberg was consistent in May when he declared: “I think it’s
fair to say if somebody was going to try to build a church or synagogue on that
piece of property, nobody would be yelling and screaming.
The fact of the
matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”
principled on August 3, when he insisted: “Let us not forget that Muslims were
among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors mourned with us as
New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our
enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In
fact, to cave in to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the
terrorists – and we should not stand for that.”
ONE OF America’s leading
Jewish American writers, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg, expressed
shock at the ADL flip-flop, and unhesitantly defended the right of Muslims to
build a mosque near Ground Zero.
Steinberg concluded a column addressing
the issue, saying: “I expect more from the ADL.
Given the history of Jews
being tarred as an evil foreign presence, I thought we’d be not quite so fast to
condemn others based on the same non-reasoning. There are lots of Islamic
terrorists, sure, but there are also lots of Jewish bankers. Both are still
offensive stereotypes, still slurs, and I can’t see how what one group of 19
Muslims did in 2001 should prevent another, completely separate group of Muslims
from building a religious center in 2010. How is claiming that any different
from saying I can’t join your country club because the Jews killed Christ? The
ADL thinks the Islamic center spoils the healing process? Well boo hoo – the
Jewish kids spoil the Christmas pageant too, but they aren’t forced to stay
home. That’s how America works. We adapt. I thought the Anti-Defamation League
understood that, but I guess I was wrong.”
Steinberg also asked the
question many may have asked quietly. If two blocks is too close to Ground Zero,
how far away would be acceptable? Six blocks? One mile? Ten miles? These were
but a few of the principled and courageous voices raised in defense of the
Muslim American community as the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy raged. These
voices stood in stark contrast to the hysteria of mainstream Americans who
packed the media with assertions that Islam is “evil” and that all Muslims
I hope to one day hear Arab and Muslim voices speak in
defense of the Jewish people as powerfully as the Jewish community has spoken in
defense of Muslims.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is a tragedy that keeps
both sides on “politically correct” guard. But it doesn’t mean that
Muslims can’t be principled, moral or ethical in defending what is right
comes to anti-Semitism.
Arabs and Muslims should not allow themselves to
be consumed by what we think is wrong. Sometimes we need to step outside
conflict and remind others and ourselves that we also believe in what is
right.The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk
show host. www.YallaPeace.com